5 days in the life of a Wounded Badger Patrol team
Since the shooting of badgers began in Somerset at the end of August, and a week later in Gloucestershire, many brave and dedicated people have left the comfort of their homes to be on the ground and help out the badgers in any way they can.
The general public is very upset about what is happening to the badgers and about the attitude of the Government, which does not seem to care about the public opposition to the irrational cull or the opinion of independent scientists against it.
The public not only expressed their opposition by signing the epetition which reached the staggering figure of 304,002 signatures, but they are now going to “the ground” where this cull is happening in the hope that they can make a difference.
We have already reported about the activities of the Wounded Badger Patrols organised by GABS in Gloucestershire which I went to see, and how we are helping them logistically and tactically, but many other “Badger Patrols” of all sorts and shapes have been spontaneously sprouting all over the two cull areas, some from far flung counties who then travel to the cull areas to help out.
Reports from all these people, often accompanied by members of the press who have shown an interest in this controversial subject, have already been circulating, and sadly the first images of killed badgers have already been made public, which suggests that the methods used by the shooters are by no means “humane”, and that the secretive methods the Government plans to use to assess “humaneness” are already flawed by design.
They all work in very hostile conditions, but they all seem determined to continue backing Britain’s badgers.
To illustrate what it’s like to be on the ground at the cull zone in these difficult times, below are extracts from one of the “badger blogs” created by a group of members of the public opposed to the cull from Cheshire.
The group travels South to participate in the legal badger monitoring initiatives that so far have proven quite successful in raising awareness about the cull:
Travelled down from Cheshire and arrived at our campsite in the Gloucestershire cull zone, to join the rest of the team. Had just put my tent up when the landowner turned up and told us all to leave, he said we 'were there for the wrong reasons'. Spent until 6pm trying to find another campsite and were finally rescued by a wildlife hospital and rescue centre who let us use their field.
We then had to rush out to the setts we are checking. Found pre-baiting at our sett. Met a Wounded Badger Patrol (WBP) and shared information with them then got into position to watch the sett. At one point we heard gunshots in the distance and reported this to base. If it was shooters they didn't come to our location.
There are three of us and we took it in turns to watch and try and get bits of sleep until 6am. Shooters didn't turn up, possibly because we and the WBP were spotted in the area, but it was hard trying to imagine how we would deal with shooters arriving. Got to bed at 7am.
Have had about three hours’ sleep. Back out today checking more setts for pre-baiting and looking for wounded badgers. We found a live trap (they use these, in areas close to people, to trap and shoot badgers) and reported that to base.
We heard that last night police had completely blocked off one estate so that the shooters could get in to do their work. This is very close to our allocated area. Back on duty at 7pm.Our setts had not been pre-baited so we moved around all night checking other areas, making sure we stayed on footpaths so as not to be arrested for trespass.
Saw plenty of suspicious lights in fields so made our presence obvious and they seemed to leave.. Very, very tired today and had an early night tonight - 3am.
Had a bit more sleep and we are going out now to check the area where we found traps to see if there are more. All quiet at our allocated area and no pre-baiting. Helped a group from Burnley to get over to our area.
They wanted to do our watch so we left them and drove around to check other vulnerable areas. Came upon a police roadblock - they were stopping all traffic on an A-road to allow a coachload of shooters to get onto an area that they knew was heavily monitored by all of us. Saw three incidents with police, sabs and WBPs. Stayed nearby to see if we could help.
Fortunately (unlike most other groups) we weren't stopped by police, possibly because we are used to keeping a low profile. Last thing, we gave some support to a WBP who had seen what they thought were shooters and were then stopped and questioned by police.
If there had been shooters they dispersed shortly after our arrival. Shooting is hotting up now we are nearly a week into the cull here. I have to come home today for a while and it’s hard when you hear the dreadful reports coming from Somerset.
We had to come home on Saturday to catch up with work things, etc. Two of our team went back on Monday and managed to see some shooters leaving from our allocated area before police arrived.
They report that our sett was heavily pre-baited again last night. Was on tenterhooks all evening because I couldn't be there with my team and worried for them. At 10pm they reported that shooters had not turned up. Going down again today.
Arrived in Gloucestershire after a few days off trying to catch up with work commitments and family life. Joined my team to check vulnerable setts.
Then went to our allocated area at 4.30 pm. We are now on Red alert because shooters have already entered our area and cattle and sheep have been moved from the fields here in preparation. Met up with WBP on their way round the area and had a catch up on intelligence.
Quiet until 11 pm then had a report from WBP of lights in fields nearby and police driving about. A shooter’s vehicle and 2 police cars pulled up on the road next to our location but then drove off North. 2 mins later we got a report from our base that there had been shooting 10 mins drive away from us.
Got back to camp at 2.30am after swapping over our watch with a new group from the North of England.
We at IFAW are very impressed with the dedication of many people on the ground who are not abandoning our wildlife in need, and who, without breaking any law and always operating in a peaceful way, have become active protectors of badgers.
In October the six week pilot culls will be over, and many of these people will be able to return to their homes. But the battle to persuade the Government not to roll out the cull to other areas in England will begin then, so there is still a long way to go.